Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Visits New Haven


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It’s not every day that a U.S. Supreme Court Justice comes to town to reflect on personal hardships and share her deepest fears.

Yet Justice Sonia Sotomayor did just that, sitting down Monday evening with Southern Connecticut State University President Mary Papazian to chat about family, growing up in the South Bronx and deciding on a career in law.
“The burdens of judgement are … enormous,” said Sotomayor, 59, who joined the nation’s highest court in 2009. “In a courtroom, there are winners, but there’s always a loser.”
This was Sotomayor’s second recent visit to New Haven. In May, Yale University awarded her an honorary degree. Sotomayor earned a Yale Law School degree in 1979.
Earlier on Monday, Sotomayor met with seventh and eighth graders from Columbus Academy in New Haven. She also talked with representatives from various SCSU student groups.
At the university’s Lyman Center for the Performing Arts, freshmen who had read Sotomayor’s memoir, “My Beloved World,” made up half the audience. They sat in rapt attention as Sotomayor described a childhood fraught with tension and loss.
Her father, an alcoholic, died when Sotomayor was a child; she developed juvenile diabetes at age 7; the housing project where she lived was riddled with discarded drug paraphernalia.
Yet over time, she said, she came to see growing up in impoverished surroundings was “not necessarily a negative, always.”
Rather, it forced her to find ways to make herself happy and “figure out it’s not your environment that makes you happy. It’s how you live in it.”
In her book, Sotomayor wrote of her childhood affinity for solving puzzles and reading Nancy Drew mysteries. She also noted it was an episode of the TV program “Perry Mason” that inspired her to consider a life in the courtroom.
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Photo: Mara Lavitt, New Haven Register
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